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In Gita Sri Krishna says

श्रेयान्स्वधर्मो विगुण: परधर्मात्स्वनुष्ठितात् | स्वधर्मे निधनं श्रेय: परधर्मो भयावह: || 35||

śhreyān swa-dharmo viguṇaḥ para-dharmāt sv-anuṣhṭhitāt swa-dharme nidhanaṁ śhreyaḥ para-dharmo bhayāvahaḥ

It is far better to perform one’s natural prescribed duty, though tinged with faults, than to perform another’s prescribed duty, though perfectly. In fact, it is preferable to die in the discharge of one’s duty, than to follow the path of another, which is fraught with danger.

My question is - Did any one use before similar phrase - śhreyān swa-dharmo viguṇaḥ - in any EPIC/Brahmana/Upanishad, that Sri Krishna used in the above sloka?

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    It is important to note that svadharmah (swa-dharmo) refers to 'customary or scripturally ordained observances of different castes and sects.' (Swami Gambhirananda note in his translation). – Swami Vishwananda Nov 15 '19 at 5:03
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Manusmṛti has a similar verse although I'm not sure if this was borrowed from the Gītā or vice versa.

varaṃ svadharmo viguṇo na pārakyaḥ svanuṣṭhitaḥ |
paradharmeṇa jīvan hi sadyaḥ patati jātitaḥ || 10.97 ||

Better one’s own duty imperfectly performed, and not the duty of another performed perfectly; he who subsists by the function of another, instantly falls off from his caste.—(10.97)


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

This is a deprecatory declamation in support of the foregoing injunction.

If a certain duty has been prescribed for one, in reference to his caste,—even though this be ‘performed imperfectly’—i.e., incomplete in its details,—it is right to perform that, and not the duty of another man, even though complete in all its details.

In support of this there is the deprecatory declamation—‘He who subsists, etc., etc.’— (97)

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    By going through the verse in Manu Smriti , I think it was borrowed from Gita but not the other way around. Thanks for making an attempt . Up voted. @sv. – srimannarayana k v Nov 15 '19 at 22:03
  • @srimannarayanakv, Manu (and his Smriti)'s time was either at beginning of Kalpa, or at beginning of Manvantara (71 chatur yugas). So Manu was before Gita. But, Krishna mentions in same Gita, that he taught Manu at beginning of Manvantara. So Krishna is the guru, Manu is the student, then Krishna is guru again with Arjuna as the student. Any case, it is pointless to argue who 'borrowed' from whom, since everyone has to borrow from Krishna at some point or other. – ram Dec 2 '19 at 7:49
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I have found slokas in Valmiki Ramayana that convey similar meaning but not exact words, indicating better to perform one’s natural prescribed duty, though tinged with faults, than to perform another’s prescribed duty, as told by Sri Krishna in BG.

In Yuddha Kanda, Vibhishana takes Lakshmana to the place where indrajit is performing the sacrificial rite. He advises Lakshmana to destroy Indrajit even before he finishes the sacrificial rite at a banyan tree. Indrajit sees Vibhishana there and starts talking harsh words to him, saying that he has ditched him by bringing Lakshmana to that place.

शोच्यस्त्वमसि दुर्बुद्धे निन्दनीयश्च साधुभिः | यस्त्वं स्वजनमुत्सृज्य परभृत्यत्वमागतः || ८७-६-१३

"O evil-minded one! You are pitiable and deserve to be reproached by the virtuous, in that having abandoned your own kind, you have entered into the service of our enemy."

नैतच्छिथिलया बुद्ध्या त्वं वेत्सि महदन्तरम् | क्व च स्वजनसंवासः क्व च नीचपराश्रयः || ८७-६-१४

"You are not recognizing the great difference because of your feeble mind. Where is living together with one's own kindred and where is taking refuge with low kind of enemies?

यः स्वपक्षं परित्यज्य परपक्षं निषेवते | स स्वपक्षे क्षयं प्राप्ते पश्चात्तैरेव हन्यते || ८७-६-१६

"He who, abandoning his own side, takes sides with adversary, is killed, after his own knsmen are destroyed just by those people of the other side."

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